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  1. PROJECT-1 EP [Type Red] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) PROJECT-1 EP [Type Red] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Block B | Block B PROJECT-1
    Block B's vocalists shine in Japan collaboration project
    September 22, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Block B often seems to live or die around Zico, but the other members are also talented in their own right. Through Block B Project-1 in Japan, Tae Il, B-Bomb, Jae Hyo, U-Kwon and P.O get the chance to shine in a different setting through original collaborations with other artists. U-Kwon and P.O duly carry forth the mantle of Block B's hip-hop sound in WINNER, a hot-blooded track with bombastic beats and a catchy hook. No one would accuse the self-hyping hip-hop bop of being deep and meaningful, but it's the kind of high-spirited musical bragging that's great for blasting at top volume. Though the song's composition and arrangement are on-trend to the point of being too familiar sounding,... [read more]
  2. Yume Makase (Japan Version) Yume Makase (Japan Version) SOIL & "PIMP" SESSIONS
    Detective jazz
    August 24, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    This season, TBS is airing the quirky detective drama Hello Harinezumi, based on the eighties manga about a scrappy private investigator agency. The series' writer/director One Hitoshi has a great track record with music in past productions like Moteki and the 2014 detective drama River's Edge Ookawabata Tanteisha, and Hello Harinezumi is no exception. For River's Edge, it was Ego-Wrappin' that supplied the detective jazz sound. This time, it's jazz ensemble Soil & "Pimp" Sessions that created the outstanding music for the entire Hello Harinezumi soundtrack. The band collaborates with Radwimps' Noda Yojiro for the series' suave and classy theme song Yume Makase. The laidback jazz number... [read more]
  3. Love ☆ Queen (SINGLE + DVD + PHOTOBOOK) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Love ☆ Queen (SINGLE + DVD + PHOTOBOOK) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) E-girls
    The new-look E-girls
    July 31, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When LDH launched E-girls in 2011, the group was meant to be an entertainment project that gathered the members of Dream, Happiness and Flower. In actuality, over the last six years, this project group in name was more well-known and active than the official groups from which it drew members. In June, LDH restructured the organization chart of its girl groups by creating the new project collective of E.G.family and redesignating E-girls as a group under that umbrella. Besides the reshuffling, the E-girls member lineup was slimmed down to 11 with the exit of eight members including Ami. Less than two months since the announcement of the new changes, the 11-member E-girls start afresh with... [read more]
  4. Peace Sign [Peace Ver.] (SINGLE+DVD)  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Peace Sign [Peace Ver.] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Yonezu Kenshi
    Yonezu Kenshi's 2nd consecutive anime theme
    June 30, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    First finding popularity as a Vocaloid composer, Yonezu Kenshi has successfully elevated his music from Niconico to the mainstream thanks to his eminently listenable rock pop sound and some well-positioned tie-in collaborations. After scoring a hit earlier in the year with the March Comes in Like a Lion theme song Orion, the talented singer-songwriter climbs the chart again with another anime theme song single in Peace Sign, the exhilarating first opening for the second season of My Hero Academia. Written, composed and arranged by Yonezu, Peace Sign coasts on an uptempo melody and tight beats that quickly establish a free-wheeling feeling of exuberance and energy. The electric guitar-driven... [read more]
  5. Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Kuraki Mai
    Crimson love song
    April 21, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Kuraki Mai's two most recent singles – Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- and Yesterday Love – are both theme songs for the Detective Conan anime franchise, but they couldn't be more different. While Yesterday Love, released in January, is a dated-sounding electronic pop song straight out of the nineties vault, her latest Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- goes back even further in time to incorporate traditional Japanese music elements into a melodic and melancholic ballad. Aligning with the Kansai autumn setting of the movie Detective Conan: Crimson Love Letter for which the single serves as theme song, Kuraki penned a wistful love song that evokes the imagery of crimson leaves. The title and lyrics refer to the... [read more]
  6. Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) amazarashi
    The Light and Darkness of amazarashi
    February 27, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    amazarashi's songs often sound as epic, evocative and world-encompassing as a fantasy RPG score so the band's latest crossover with Square Enix's action-adventure game NieR: Automata fits like second skin. Frontman Akita Hiromu wrote and composed the theme song Inochi ni Fusawashii ("Deserving of Life") based on game director Taro Yoko's story about combat androids dispatched to a post-apocalyptic Earth to fight machines in a proxy war. Ever the storyteller, Akita interprets the game's world and themes into a highly lyrical and melodic musical journey about lonely souls forging a precious connection and asserting the value of life in a broken world. The story begins over dissonant beats and... [read more]
  7. SUPER FLY (Japan Version) SUPER FLY (Japan Version) EXILE THE SECOND
    Super funky
    February 23, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    EXILE THE SECOND made a strong return last year with a trilogy of singles and the launch of a nationwide arena tour, and it looks like the group is carrying forth the EXILE TRIBE dance music mantle this year as well with the consecutive releases of the single Super Fly and album Born to be Wild. THE SECOND delivers a super infectious and upbeat dance jam in Super Fly. Written and co-composed by Shokichi, the exuberant song has you nodding along in no time with addictive beats and cheeky lyrics in the opening rap verse, but the real fun is in the playful funk arrangement, the brass-underlined bridge and the catchy dance-out chorus. In comparison to their forcefully cool urban EDM tracks,... [read more]
  8. Unmei no I Love You (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Unmei no I Love You (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) chay
    Retro pop sounds
    December 1, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Since her debut, singer-songwriter chay has often integrated retro elements and stylings into her hearty, guitar-strumming ballads and pop numbers. She completely embraces the retro pop sound for her charming new single Unmei no I Love You ("Fated I Love You"). Co-written by chay, the sweet title track is actually a wedding gift for her sister. Accordingly, the lyrics drip with happy thoughts and blessings for that special day and destined love. The wedding song's joyous message is matched by its fun Motown-style melody by Koichi Tabo who has produced and composed chay's last few singles. The song lightly channels Motown sound with its distinctly catchy chord structure and the use of... [read more]
  9. TIME FLIES (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) TIME FLIES (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Tosaka Hiroomi | Ace of Spades
    Epic HiGH & LOW music collaboration
    October 25, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Having never watched any of the HiGH & LOW dramas and movies, I can't speak to the quality of all the different parts of EXILE TRIBE's ambitious multimedia project, but HiGH & LOW has definitely yielded some great music. Earlier this year in June, the project's songs were released together in the HiGH & LOW Original Best Album, which was basically a summation of the LDH music empire (sans an actual EXILE song). Besides the usual suspects, the album saw the exciting return of Ace of Spades, the band formed by Glay guitarist Hisashi, unkie bassist Tokie, Mad Capsule Market drummer Motokatsu and EXILE's own Takahiro. The limited-time project band had previously only released one single back in... [read more]
  10. Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Matsuda Seiko
    Meeting of two Japan music legends
    September 27, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Matsuda Seiko and Yoshiki are both legendary names in Japanese music, but they're artists one wouldn't typically associate together. The eternal diva and iconic rocker have now finally crossed musical paths through the beautifully lyrical single Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte ("Bloom like a Rose, Fall like Cherry Blossoms"). Written and composed by Yoshiki, the slow and stirring ballad sounds like a song from the Showa era. Its composition, arrangement and lyrics all deliberately carry forth a very "Japan" sound and aesthetic. Accompanied by piano and strings, Matsuda Seiko croons calm melancholy in that unmistakable sweet lilting voice that captivated a generation of Japanese... [read more]
  11. insane dream / us (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) insane dream / us (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) Aimer
    Aimer's alt-rock collaborations
    July 27, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    2016 has been the year of collaborations for Aimer so far, and it's produced some of her best songs yet. After collaborating with EGOIST's chelly for ninelie in May, she teams up with One OK Rock's Taka and Ling Tosite Sigure's TK for her latest double A-side's insane dream and us, which take her music in a more alternative direction. Composed and produced by Taka, insane dream is a powerful rock number with striking arrangement and instrumentation that encompass the listener in echoing vocals, pulsating beats, blaring guitar effects and a mesmerizing bass line. The song's opening and verses have a haunting, dizzingly agitated quality that matches the song's title and lyrics. It floats... [read more]
  12. Puzzle [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Puzzle [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) CNBLUE
    CNBLUE's Japanese discography is better
    May 19, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    While many Korean artists simply rehash their K-pop hits for Japanese singles, CNBLUE has written original material for every Japanese single since debut. Furthermore, the band seems to have free rein to pursue a rawer Britpop sound in their Japanese releases without the obligation of chart-friendly hooks. As such, not only is CNBLUE's Japanese discography as essential as their Korean discography, their Japanese singles often surpass their Korean plugs. Written and co-composed by Jung Yong Hwa, the band's latest Japanese single Puzzle is pitched as their first "wedding song" so it's understandably more upbeat and pop-leaning than most of their other Japanese singles. The kind of song that... [read more]
  13. Silent Majority [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Silent Majority [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Keyakizaka46
    Don't be a part of the silent majority
    April 19, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    A group of teenage girls in matching uniforms singing and dancing in unison might not be the most convincing spokesperson for nonconformity, but Keyakizaka46's debut single Silent Majority offers a surprisingly defiant youth anthem. A sister group of Nogizaka46, Keyakizaka46 is the latest addition to producer Akimoto Yasushi's pop culture-dominating pantheon of idol girl groups. Though it may take a while to establish what makes Keyakizaka46 stand out from the other groups, they've already scored the highest ever debut week sales for a female artist, displacing HKT48's record from three years ago. Silent Majority also gets my vote for the best debut single from an AKB-related... [read more]
  14. Sakura (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Sakura (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Crystal Kay
    The melancholic sound of spring
    March 31, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    The annual J-pop deluge of sakura-themed songs gets off to a strong early start this year with Crystal Kay's lovely spring single Sakura. Sakura (Track 1) begins straight away with the chorus and its poetic opening line "Cherry blossom petals soar into the sky." Crystal Kay's beautiful voice soars with the wistful lyrics against a strumming guitar. The medium-tempo number contrasts a bright and uplifting melody with melancholic lyrics recalling a past love, delivered in Crystal Kay's confident vocals. The overall effect is refreshing, conveying a both sad yet positive mood that feels just right for spring. With its pronounced beats, silky flow and increasingly catchy chorus, the R&B-leaning... [read more]
  15. Steppin' out (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Steppin' out (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) FLOW
    FLOW x Durarara!!
    January 21, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    FLOW is often associated with anime theme songs and their latest single Steppin' Out is no exception as it's the final opening theme of Durarara!!x2. Also of no surprise is the fact that the song is a super danceable rock jam. An incredibly hyperactive track even by FLOW standards, Steppin' Out is just so much fun to listen to from beginning to end. The song kicks in straight away with tightly packed beats and riffs that lead into an infectiously arranged uptempo pop rock number with rousing lyrics that inspire hope, action and adventure – perfect for an anime tie-in. The song maintains its high energy level throughout, and gets in a slowed-down bridge, rocking guitar solo and rap breakdown... [read more]
  16. Organism (Japan Version) Organism (Japan Version) Qaijff
    Piano rock on speed
    November 20, 2015 Picked By Frood See all this editor's picks
    This is strictly a matter of personal preference, but I've always found piano rock to be a bit...limp. Named for two elements of music that should make for an explosive push-and-pull combination if employed in a balanced manner, most piano rock I've come across seems to skew more towards the "piano" part of the equation. As a standalone instrument, the piano is often evocative, emotional and exceedingly earnest. The shadow of the piano frequently looms large over rock, leaving the energy and speed of the latter by the wayside. This, thankfully, is not a problem that plagues Qaijff (pronounced "kwaif"). The Japanese three-piece aims to be a piano rock band that charts a new soundscape, and... [read more]
  17. GRAY SMOKE (Japan Version) GRAY SMOKE (Japan Version) Aoyama Thelma
    A hint of alt R&B is all Aoyama Thelma needs
    October 16, 2015 Picked By Frood See all this editor's picks
    Alt R&B, indie R&B, PBR&B...whatever you want to call it (and however much the terms are despised by artists associated with it), a quiet storm of innovation has been brewing in R&B in the last few years. In the West, an estimable group of artists like Janelle Monae and FKA Twigs have led the charge. Mainstream J-pop has largely been untouched by this semi-revolution, but Aoyama Thelma changes this in her latest EP, GRAY SMOKE. Though she doesn't necessarily commit the entire release to alt R&B, Aoyama does proverbially dip her toes in it to great effect. Born and raised in Japan's Kansai region, Aoyama first became interested in music after watching Janet Jackson's video for Rhythm Nation... [read more]
  18. Ai wo Sakebe (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) Ai wo Sakebe (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) Arashi
    Arashi rings the wedding bells again
    September 1, 2015 Picked By Frood See all this editor's picks
    "Hyaku-nen saki mo ai wo chikau yo..." If you're an Arashi fan, these words will not be unfamiliar to you. This exceedingly recognizable line of lyrics is from the group's 2008 mega-hit, One Love. The theme song of the film Hana Yori Dango Final starring member Matsumoto Jun, the release went on to become Japan's second highest-selling single of 2008 (the first was, of course, Arashi's truth / Kaze no Mukou e). Being Arashi's first wedding-themed track, it's no surprise that One Love has become a fixture at Japanese weddings, earning titles like "Song I Most Want to Hear at a Wedding" (Count Down TV) and "Top Wedding Staple" (Oricon) in various rankings. Seven years later, the group looks... [read more]
  19. Yeah!! Natsuyasumi [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) Yeah!! Natsuyasumi [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) DISH//
    A top-notch boy band with an eccentric concept
    August 25, 2015 Picked By Frood See all this editor's picks
    Stardust Promotion, the company behind the formidable Momoiro Clover Z, has spent the past few years building up its idol division following the success it's had with its flagship girl group. Now, the company is home to more than a dozen boy bands and girl bands, each with a more outlandish concept than the last. Choutokkyuu is the (self-proclaimed) world's first main dancers/backing singers group. Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku sells itself on the mediocrity of its singing and dancing. Meanwhile, DISH//, one of Stardust's earliest boy band success stories, is a "dance rock band." Now, dance rock is a completely legitimate and not at all strange genre of music. But DISH//'s "dance rock" is not your... [read more]
  20. Star Tanjou (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) Star Tanjou (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) The Challenge
    Singalong pop-rock at its finest
    June 30, 2015 Picked By Frood See all this editor's picks
    Everything about The Challenge points to it being a joke. Formed in September 2010, the band's trademarks are the colored sunglasses worn by members during live performances. The band gleefully indulges in self-mythologizing, proclaiming to be "the last large-scale newbie band of Shimokitazawa" and "the miraculous ikemen band." The group consists of five members, including lead singer Sawada Challenge, who has declared that his only reason for being in a band is to increase his Twitter following, and guitarist Challenge Ono Mac, whose hobby is "studying Kimura Takuya." Yet, as the group shows in its major debut Star Tanjou (Birth of a Star), under all the gimmicks and facetious... [read more]
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